Frequently asked questions: LGBTQ+ communities and Canada’s Lifeline

LGBTQ+ employees, donors, volunteers, and stakeholder groups all play an important role in strengthening our healthcare system for all Canadians. Increased representation of LGBTQ+ communities, among other under-represented groups, is central to our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

As we recognize Pride Month this June at Canadian Blood Services, we are continuing to take steps to modify our practices and policies and cultivate a donor base and workforce that more fully and equitably reflects Canada’s diverse population. Although we’ve made incremental steps toward evolving blood donor eligibility criteria for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; trans and nonbinary individuals; and other persons who are not yet eligible to donate, we have further work to do in our journey toward implementing behaviour-based screening for donors.

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about blood donation and the LGBTQ+ community.

If you have further questions, or if you’d like to share your perspective on this important topic with us, please email us at feedback@blood.ca

Evolving eligibility criteria for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

Fostering an atmosphere of acceptance


06/28/2021
  |  
This Pride Month, analyst Aiden Beattie reflects on a decade of changes at Canadian Blood Services

Laying the groundwork for a more inclusive blood system


06/21/2021
  |  
Dr. Catherine Jenkins, scientist and LGBTQ+ advocate, is part of our effort to evolve donor screening

‘I’m not by myself here’


06/03/2021
  |  
This Pride Month, manager Amy Gow reflects on our employee resources for LGBTQ+ employees.
Why is Canadian Blood Services sharing LGBTQ+ content?

Canadian Blood Services is seeking to more meaningfully recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ groups and individuals to Canada’s Lifeline and the important role they play in strengthening our health-care system for all Canadians.

Last year, we reaffirmed our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which includes taking steps to address inequity and systemic racism within our own organization. Representation of LGBTQ+ communities, among other under-represented groups, is central to our commitment.

Diversity and inclusion play a vital role in ensuring health equity and equality for Canadians, regardless of their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, spirituality, ethnicity, age, visible or invisible disability, citizenship, socio-economic status or any other aspect which makes them unique.

We are continuing to work together with employees, researchers, stakeholder groups, donors and recipients to create more inclusive practices and policies.

What are you doing to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization?

We are continuing to take steps to modify our practices and policies and cultivate a donor base and workforce that more fully and equitably reflects Canada’s diverse population. These steps include:

  • Supporting 19 research projects that are investigating donors’ eligibility criteria and screening processes. These research projects are helping us build the evidence we need to submit to Health Canada, our regulator, to further evolve the criteria so we can be minimally restrictive about who can donate while safeguarding the blood supply. Many of these projects are reaching their final stages and we look forward to sharing the results as researchers publish their findings.
  • Implementing optional and anonymous self-identifying questions for candidates to help us identify where we can be more inclusive in our hiring practices and ensure all applicants have equitable opportunities when applying.
  • Creating a culture shift within our environments through our work to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization; further engagement of LGBTQ+ communities; and more awareness building internally.
Why are you sharing LGBTQ+ content when there is a three-month waiting period for some gay/bisexual men, trans and nonbinary people?

Sharing this content does not erase the ongoing and historical hurt experienced by some individuals in response to some of our screening practices and eligibility criteria.

We are continuing our work to modify our practices and policies and to cultivate a donor base and workforce that more fully and equitably reflects Canada’s diverse population.

This includes recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ+ groups and individuals to Canada’s Lifeline and the important role they play in strengthening our healthcare system for all Canadians, while continuing to work together with employees, researchers, stakeholder groups, donors and recipients to create more inclusive practices and policies.

Although we’ve made incremental steps towards evolving blood donor eligibility criteria for gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, trans and nonbinary individuals and other persons who are not yet eligible to donate, we have further work to do in our journey towards implementing behaviour-based screening for donors.

What are you doing to change your eligibility screening practices for gay/bisexual men, trans and nonbinary people?

We are continuing to take steps to modify our practices and policies to be more inclusive and equitable. We see the current three-month waiting period as an incremental step in Canada’s eligibility criteria journey for men who have sex with men, trans and nonbinary individuals and other persons who are not yet eligible to donate.

For any changes to donor eligibility criteria to be approved, we must provide evidence to Health Canada, our regulator, that any new changes are safe and supported by stakeholder groups.

We are currently supporting 19 research projects that are investigating donors’ eligibility criteria and screening processes. These research projects are helping us build the evidence we need to submit to Health Canada to further evolve the criteria so we can be minimally restrictive about who can donate while safeguarding the blood supply.

Many of these projects are reaching their final stages and we look forward to sharing the results as researchers publish their findings.

We recently made a submission to Health Canada to establish alternative screening and collection processes that would allow some men who have sex with men to donate source plasma in certain locations. We hope the data and knowledge gained through this incremental step will accelerate progress towards our ultimate goal of gender-neutral, behaviour-based screening for all blood donors.

Why is it taking so long to change your screening practices?

Our policies are dependent on current technologies and our priority is always to ensure the safety and quality of our products at all times for the patients who depend on them.

We recognize that being turned away from donating blood can leave people with a sense of hurt, anger, frustration and disappointment, especially when these criteria exclude those who may experience multiple forms of marginalization, stigma or systemic discrimination.

We see the current three-month waiting period as an incremental step in Canada’s eligibility criteria journey for men who have sex with men, trans and nonbinary individuals and other persons who are not yet eligible to donate.

We are currently supporting 19 research projects that are investigating donors’ eligibility criteria and screening processes. These research projects are helping us build the evidence we need to submit to Health Canada, our regulator, to further evolve the criteria so we can be minimally restrictive about who can donate while safeguarding the blood supply.

When will you make the next submission to Health Canada to switch to alternative criteria for gbMSM?

We recently made a submission to Health Canada to establish alternative screening and collection processes that would allow some men who have sex with men to donate source plasma in certain locations. We hope the data and knowledge gained through this incremental step will accelerate progress towards our ultimate goal of gender-neutral, behaviour-based screening for all blood donors.